Ian Kinsler, leadoff hitter

Ron Washington has apparently told the media today that Ian Kinsler is going to hit leadoff for the Rangers in 2011, with Michael Young hitting 6th.

This is interesting, and I like this move.  I'm not generally a big believer in players performing differently in different spots in the lineup, but Kinsler is a player who has seemed to be prone to slumps when he starts thinking home run and trying to hit for power, and putting him in the top spot may help put him in a mindset where its about hitting line drives and getting on base, not swinging for the fences.

In addition, Kinsler is one of the best percentage base stealers in baseball, with a career 85.5% stolen base rate, and in the three seasons before 2010 (when he was slowed with a bad ankle), Kinsler stole 80 bases and was thrown out just 9 times.  So he gives you a base stealing threat at the top of the lineup who isn't likely to cost you outs when he runs.

The interesting question now because, who hits 2nd?  Elvis Andrus is the obvious answer to the question, as a speedy guy who can handle the bat, works the count and isn't going to hit into many GIDPs (only five players with at least 600 plate appearances hit into fewer GIDPs than Elvis last year), but he also only posted a .342 OBP in 2010.  You want to see something higher than that from a top of the order hitter.

The player who I think could be a dark horse as a potential #2 hitter is Mitch Moreland.  We know that the Rangers like him, and while he is a first baseman, he doesn't profile as a real power hitter -- he's more of a line drive guy who will hit a lot of doubles.  The Rangers obviously like his offensive potential and advanced approach at the plate a lot, and I have to wonder if they see Moreland as someone who will hit for a good average with line drive power while working the plate and drawing walks, making him a potential #2 guy.

The big risk you have with Moreland is that, even though he is a lefty, he's not fast and is going to be prone to the GIDP -- he had 21 in the minors in 2009, despite barely getting over 500 PAs, and had 15 with Oklahoma City in 2010 in 412 PAs.

But Moreland is someone who could be an unconventional but quality option in that spot, if Young sticks in the 6 hole.

UPDATE -- Washington says that Elvis will hit 2nd, Moreland 7th.  So the above doesn't matter for now...however, if Elvis doesn't hit at the start of the season, I do think that could change...

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